Planning Theory

Published by SAGE Publications
Online ISSN: 1473-0952
Publications
Article
What if the dominance of the spatial metaphor in political reasoning and imagination risks an ultimately anti-political structuration of the field, leaving no space for acts that re-shape relations of power and to power? This tendency can explain the movement away from space towards an appreciation and prioritization of temporality in contemporary political theory. And yet, as Žižek’s fetishization of the ‘radical act’ as pure temporality reveals, no solution is to be found in reversing the terms of this binary opposition. Pure space and pure time form an imaginary double further enhancing the repression of the political. What is thus needed is a more sophisticated registering of the unavoidable space–time dialectic, able to allow a topological rethinking of space and to encourage democratic acts aiming at the reflexive re-institution of social orders.
 
Network of human actors in commercial office development in Ropemaker Place. (a) Base network and (b) nodes weighted by betweenness score for actors. 
Network of all actants in commercial office development in Ropemaker Place. (a) Base network and (b) nodes weighted by betweenness score for actants. 
Article
There has been a recent growth in interest within planning theory in Actor–Network Theory. This article explores the potential for Actor–Network Theory to deliver a distinctive perspective on planning practice. Using a case study of commercial office development and the discussion of its carbon performance within the regulatory planning process, an Actor–Network Theory–based analysis is provided. The analysis points to the role of planning policy documents as intermediaries, the planning consent process as an obligatory passage point and energy-modelling exercises as potentially black-boxing low-carbon development. It also emphasises how materiality of the development embodies compliance with policy through the construction and warranting of evidence claims. In all these ways, the relationships between actants within networks are shaped. The practice-based conclusions draw attention to the importance of planners devising highly detailed and carefully worded plan policies, and understanding and being able to challenge the knowledge derived from energy-modelling tools as ways of developing agency to influence the outcomes of planning practice. Such agency is revealed by an Actor–Network Theory analysis to be small work in local sites of practice but set against the backdrop of regulatory regimes.
 
Article
A shift in governing modes is increasingly leading to new conditions for professionals. In view of such change, there is a need for deeper awareness of how hegemonic power struggles and processes of identification are deeply interconnected. In order to illustrate how such processes shape the acting space of professionals, a critical reflection on changing conditions for English local authority planning 1998–2010 is presented. The analysis focuses on deconstruction of power as ability, authority and identity. The conclusion is that if society is to reconsider the value of local authority planners having influence, then it is time to introduce a new perception of the political into planning. Such a perception hinges on increased understanding within the profession itself of how power shapes acting space.
 
Article
Not only in the Netherlands, but also elsewhere, there is stalemate between modern and postmodern/post-structural planning, or alternatively, between state-controlled and neo-liberal planning. Since the 1980s at least, modernist, state-controlled planning has been fundamentally debunked as a highly regulatory and prescriptive operation, resulting in syrupy planning processes, which are very costly, inflexible and inefficient, and suppressing all new and creative initiatives that do not fit within the set framework. Postmodern and post-structural alternatives developed since then have been very effective in counter-attacking the alleged virtues of that planning strategy, but less fruitful at promoting effective and/or sustainable practices. The article assumes that this is related to the fact that time and again these alternatives continue to be formulated from within the existing planning framework, from a specific governmental, or at least a government influenced, view of planning: in essence from the inside-out. From this position, the article goes on to describe the possible outlines for a practical outside-inward, actor-relational-approach. It has been developed from experimental case studies in concrete planning practices, for example, a case study in Southern Limburg in the Netherlands. Concurrently, it has also been derived from a fundamental interaction with behavioural, urban regime and actor-network/network actor theories, with an extensive evaluation of the latter. The article concludes with a call for a new fundamental, but proactive, reassembling of spatial planning in an actor-oriented, as opposed to a government-oriented, way.
 
Article
On a walking hike in southern Germany you may encounter a small house with the striking inscription: ‘Gott schütze uns für Gewitter, Ungerechtigkeit und Planer’. (God protect us from thunder, injustice, and planners). It marks – whether justifiably or not – the broad distrust in society of the noble profession of planning. In a similar event, a recent planning masterpiece of the Flemish Government – the Lange Wapper Bridge, planned to complete the ring road around Antwerp – was voted down in a referendum. In Amsterdam, however, planning disasters that have turned the city upside-down for more than 15 years are completely ignored by the residents. They no longer bother with what has been decided beyond and over their heads; they just get on with their own lives. Against this background and in these times of crisis, not only in planning, but economically and politically as well, there is every reason to critically refocus the fundamentals of planning. This is, in fact, what David Webb, in his commentary on my outside-inward deployment of an actor-relational-approach (ARA) is doing. Moreover, Webb also recognizes that ARA ‘has the potential to generate relationally embedded projects, which have a greater, or at least different, change of success to mainstream, plan-led approaches’ (Webb, 2010). Nevertheless, he rightly distrusts the general applicability of that deployment and hits the nail right on the head in his comments.
 
Article
Although planning researchers and practitioners may see planning theory as interesting, its utility for addressing ‘real’ planning practice remains moot. A model is proposed that draws on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus that collapses both the agency/structure problematic and the theory/practice divide. This model draws on the socio-developmentalism of Vygotsky and the philosophical insights of Wittgenstein that are brought together to understand innovation for sustainability in a master-planned community. This is not a one-to-one borrowing of theory from another discipline to shed light on planning processes, but a response to a particular planning problem that draws on multiple conceptual frameworks. The propositions of the model include, first, that practices are embodied social structures that aconsciously define ‘the way things are done around here’; second, that existing practices prime our responses to change; and third, that agency is a bid to either extend or defend one’s practices. The implications for planning professionals and researchers are discussed.
 
Article
Sometimes planning is designed to counteract market forces, revealing an adversarial relationship between planning and the invisible hand. Other times, planning builds on the spontaneous order of the market and the two will be allies. This article offers two related arguments on the division between top-down planning and the bottom-up planning produced by the spontaneous order of the market. First, planning as a whole has insufficiently appreciated both the effectiveness of the spontaneous order of the market and the difficulty of overriding it. Second, when one recognizes the way in which bottom-up planning creates an orderly outcome, one can see that governments have simultaneously planned too much of the affairs of market participants, but at the same time have insufficiently planned their own activities.
 
Article
This article starts from the premise that, for all its diverse ideals and technical bases, the core of planning is an ability to favourably influence collective spatial concerns. The location of practice within spatial governance means that the ‘worth’ of planning theories often depends upon the nature of governance itself in given places and times. In this article, three layered vignettes of practice in Victoria, Australia are presented to demonstrate the importance of governance settings to the value and success of selected planning theories at different geographical and temporal scales. The vignettes examine: the introduction of new planning legislation in Victoria, Australia; the take-up of medium density housing; and the influence of communicative planning on participation. The article concludes that the effects of theory upon practice depend upon institutional circumstances, and that theory, and its users, must address this to be effective and to prevent unintended outcomes.
 
Article
Over the past decade, scholars from various fields have argued that the salience of the metropolitan region as a scale of real economic interaction and public intervention has increased significantly. Simultaneously, many scholars have identified a shift in governing processes away from formal bureaucratic forms toward “network governance.” This article joins these fields by (1) evaluating the challenges and opportunities posed by network governance systems in a range of policy venues from the local to the global level, and (2) applying these insights to the problem of economic inequality within metropolitan regions and the multiple efforts to address it. Although we are sympathetic with the goals of regional equity and the participatory promise of network governance, our objective is to paint a realistic picture of the limits to joining these agendas. We conclude that, for equity issues, public deliberation does not take place around one fixed “table”—limiting the usefulness of much of the governance literature. Instead, public deliberation around social equity occurs in an evolutionary manner as members of progressive networks engage networks of business and pro-growth interests in a series of skirmishes throughout a region and over time. More often than not, these exchanges occur at “real scales” such as city-council chambers or state legislatures, and involve traditional forms of political action rather than “network governance” per se.
 
The 'paradigm shifts' of democracy and planning theory and related changes in the citizen's role
Article
In this article the arrangements for the participatory planning of the five largest Finnish cities are examined from the perspectives of both democracy and planning theories. Four paradigms that form the continuum of general planning theoretical debate are identified as being relevant in the Finnish context: comprehensive-rationalistic, incrementalist, consensus-oriented communicative and conflict-oriented agonistic planning theory. These are discussed in relation to the parallel development of democracy theory: from the aggregative to the deliberative and further to the agonistic model of democracy. The empirical study reveals that while each paradigm shift in theory purports to replace the former theory with a new one, in practice the new theory emerges as a new addition to the palette of coexisting theoretical sources, to be drawn upon as a source of guidance and inspiration in organizing participatory planning. The five Finnish cities combine traits of different theories in their arrangements of planning participation, often in a fashion that generates institutional ambiguity. The argument concludes with discussing the necessity of further empirical and developmental research, where the contexts of both planning theory and democracy theory are related to the institutional challenges of planning conduct. If this does not happen the emerging agonistic planning theory, too, may become a paradigm shift at the level of theory only, thereby contributing to the widening gap between theory and practice.
 
Article
This article argues for a new way of valuing development control planning practices in a democratic society: as agonistic political engagement. Using Chantal Mouffe’s conception of the political, it counters claims that collaborative and consensus seeking approaches are of higher value than conflicts over site-specific development. In this, the idea of true consensus is an impossibility as some viewpoint has to be excluded from any agreement. Moreover, for democracy to exist, legitimate arenas for the expression of different opinions are needed, without resolution and agreement being the endpoint of discussion. Examples are drawn from discussion in a public inquiry on how meanings assigned to planning policy and the built environment can be part of this agonistic debate. They form the elements building up contradictory arguments about what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘good’ for a specific place. The mechanisms of development control provide a legitimate forum for these arguments to be articulated, without consensus or agreement as the ultimate goal.
 
Article
Theories of urban democracy that are relevant, critical and take sufficient account of the pervasiveness of power continue to pose challenges. Two theoretical frameworks dominate in relation to planning and democracy – Habermasian-inspired communicative planning theory and Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism. Both theoretical frames are typically held to be incommensurable because of fundamental ontological and epistemological differences and the debate between proponents of each tends to be polemic. Both theories have complementary strengths and weaknesses in terms of the insights they are capable of providing. Moreover, the realities of urban governance situations often display characteristics that can be explained in terms of both theoretical framings. This article negotiates a path beyond the polemic debate. It problematizes both theoretical frameworks and negotiates a way forward for planning theory that co-opts the principles of one into a theoretical framework that assumes the ontological position of the other. In so doing the article proposes a two-pronged approach that provides a critical, adaptive and reflexive approach to inquiring into spaces of urban democracy.
 
Article
In planning theory, four discourses frame collective decisions about land allocation: market, rational-comprehensive, participation, and resistance. Ideally, these discourses should function as a system of checks and balances in which each one limits the potential failings of the others. The case of Bogotá, Colombia shows that instead of balancing each other, these discourses collude into ‘land entrepreneurialism’, a dynamic that privatizes the benefits of city growth and socializes its costs creating a pattern of scarcity of urban services and incentivizing informal settlements. In this framework, informality is a system of co-optation that neutralizes the resistance of the poor through ‘pirate subdivisions’, which are, in fact, ‘the privatization of squatting’. Because land entrepreneurialism is engendered in the institution of property as a natural right and the power relations that it produces, addressing informality entails more than its ‘formalization’. It entails the creation of a new type of formality based on a broader notion of property rights.
 
Article
Yosef Jabareen ties fear to planning in his empirical research conducted in Israel/Palestine, offering scholarly research in planning an important concept that is termed a ‘space of risk’. Yet, Jabareen’s research fails to outline the key theoretical aspects of fear which underpin his concept. The importance of fear to planning practice lies in helping planning scholars, and in particular those conducting research in cases of violent conflict, to understand the complexity that underpins spaces of anxiety, risk and threat. Analysis in this article therefore attempts to further conceptualise fear in planning theory, building upon and complementing Jabareen’s conceptualisation of a ‘space of risk’. A fresh area for scholarly research in planning theory emerges that addresses the politics of fear and the impact that fear has on the production of spaces in violent settings.
 
Article
As a vegetarian for several decades, Sue Hendler had a criterion for what could and could not be consumed: “Never eat anything that has a face.” Indeed, she once chided me, on those grounds, for eating shrimps. Her criterion exemplifies two important aspects of ethical decision-making. First, what ought to be done or not done depends upon what entities one is dealing with and deciding about. In other words, good ethics depends upon sound metaphysics; moral decision-making is, in part, a function of one’s ontology. Second, what something is (its ontology) to us as human beings—for example, a “being with a face”—partly depends upon how we relate to it, because how we relate to something makes some of its characteristics more salient than others, and even (in some cases) creates those characteristics. In other words, ontological identity is, in part, relational, and relating and relationships are core contributors to good ethical reasoning. This paper explores and elaborates upon these two fundamental claims, and shows how Sue Hendler supported these ideas in her life and in her work as a feminist planner.
 
Article
The critique of planning’s ‘dark’ side has been a theme of both modern and postmodern perspectives. While a great deal of anecdotal and empirical evidence exists that highlights how planning can be, and has been, used for nefarious ends there are few theoretical insights or understandings of the role of different actors, institutions or processes. This article provides a critical analysis of the notion of ‘dark side’ from a Lacanian and Derridean perspective. A short case study of the use of planning for what would broadly be regarded as ‘dark’ ends highlights a number of issues, particularly through engagement with Lacanian theory, which provides a useful theoretical framework for further research into the misuse of planning.
 
Article
The purpose of this article is to offer a rationale for bringing art and artists into the planning process. Although there appears to exist a nascent interest in planner–artist collaborations in contemporary planning practice and research, accounts of such collaborations in planning literature are generally patchy and often under-theorized. In this article I argue that art and artist-led activities can function as a powerful vehicle of communication in the planning process. The unique potential of planner–artist collaborations is based on the artistic licence that grants the artist a mandate to set the stage for an estrangement of that which is familiar and taken-for-granted, thus shifting frames of references and creating a radical potential for planning in a way that can be very difficult for planners to achieve on their own.
 
Article
We consider the case of the proposed Atlanta BeltLine to shed light on what may be crucial limits to ethical decision making and responsible action in shaping or reshaping the built environment, especially as those limits enter into the lived experience of individual residents of metropolitan areas. Drawing from theoretical sources in the humanities and social sciences, we consider the scope and limits of responsible individual conduct within complex urban systems, and derive insights that may be of value to planners and others who have visions for urban transformation. We will also draw from the ongoing analysis of our survey of Atlanta area residents, for purposes of illustration.
 
Article
In response to the US obesity epidemic, researchers in urban planning and public health have developed a number of built environment ‘audits’ to evaluate the presence of physical health determinants in neighborhoods and public spaces. These audits are most often framed in value-neutral and objective terms, overlooking the distributive justice dimension of built environment evaluations. I argue that audits always imply some underlying definition of distributive justice, and can be typologized according to three major theories, namely those of Mill, Rawls, and Sen. The study concludes with a practical model for framing the distributive dimension of audits.
 
Article
This article describes the characteristics of a distinctively Australian paradigm of metropolitan planning which reflect circumstances of governance, infrastructure provision and concentration on suburban expansion into surrounding countryside. The resultant plans are detailed in their arrangement of land use and communications, comprehensive and long term. There are indications this paradigm may be changing as these dominating influences alter in character. Contemporary metropolitan strategic planning in Europe and America is overviewed to establish the distinctiveness of the Australian paradigm. Changes in plan-shaping forces are leading the emergence of a new European strategic spatial planning paradigm very different to Australia's. Strategic spatial planning in the United States, while heterogeneous, has examples that reinforce the idea of an Australian paradigm in terms of the influence of governance structure and infrastructure agency on the level of spatial plan detail.
 
Article
Social theory has, in recent times, taken a spatial turn. In the case of political theory, discussions about the spatial dimensions and imaginaries of politics have drawn on political geography in order to investigate the contours of pluralism, the public space, democratic agonism, social movements, and the post-national spaces of globalisation. If, as Henri Lefebvre argues, space is seen as a framework for dominant political and economic interests, my aim here is to explore the ways in which this hegemonic space is challenged, contested and reconfigured, as well as the fantasies and desires invested in political spaces. It is in this context that I would like to consider the question of space for radical politics, and, in particular, for that most heretical of all radical political traditions - anarchism. After showing that anarchism is more than simply the anarchic disruption of space – indeed, anarchist thought and politics suggests an alternative mapping of space as well as a new, egalitarian and democratic way of thinking about planning and design – I will go on to explore the way in which social and political spaces are imagined in revolutionary discourse, both anarchist and Marxist. It is here that a Lacanian analysis of the social imaginary becomes important, particularly the theory of the four discourses, which makes the visible the hidden structural link between revolutionary politics and political authority; between the desire for revolutionary transgression and the reaffirmation of state power, which has beset the revolutions of the past.
 
Article
The objective of our article is twofold. First, we claim that the theoretical planning discussion dealing with public participation has forgotten one basic principle, namely that the people are taking part in the planning process because they are interested in a particular issue. There is a need for new conceptual approaches in participatory research which carry the discussion first towards the issues, then to the structures of participation. For this reason, we have combined practice-oriented policy analysis with the recent discussion of issue politics. Second, we implement the key propositions of the theoretical debate in an empirical case. The aim is to indicate how the trajectory of the issue, as well as its continuities and discontinuities, develop in diverse ways in different civic forums. We claim that this perspective provides more information for researchers, civil servants and citizens about the logic of participatory practice.
 
Article
This paper offers a framework to redress the neglect of children in planning theory. Noting that children are viewed as both human beings and human becomings, attention is drawn to the role of planning in regulating both aspects of children’s lives through a construction of childhood that emerged in conjunction with planning’s modernist roots. A recovered history of childhood challenges adult-centric accounts that render children invisible or assume their dependence and helplessness. Drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, the constitutive elements of this recovered history are examined and contrasted with the spatial segregation and regulation of childhood that is the profession’s current normative framework. The paper concludes by identifying ways that planning theory can be further enhanced by a focus on children and childhood.
 
Article
The article considers how planning, in its various dimensions of engagement with popular communication media, plays an important role in helping to ideologically constitute a polity’s desired spatial reality. In doing so it will consider the historical deployment in public relations of psychoanalytical theory to facilitate the construction of public issues and beliefs, as well as to engineer consent for planning and related policy. The article will consider the role of contemporary media in shaping public aspirations as to what is desired for the future of our cities and settlements. The article will conclude that psychoanalytical insight gives us one effective handle from which to begin to understand planning’s ideologically shaping role in the formulation of our desires for our future communities.
 
Overview of key events in the Tromsø experiment and events leading to the experiment 
Article
Through a case study of urban planning in Tromsø, Norway, Jean Hillier’s idea of a multi-planar theory of planning is discussed. Hillier’s theory explores the potential of the concept of becoming as creative experimentation. Our aim with this article is to explore the concept of planning as experimentation. The case study is a democratic experiment with planning as a more open, transparent and inclusive process, and it represented a break with institutionalized practices. The article analyses this experiment through a post-structural approach and how it relates to planning practice.
 
Police (in foreground, left, and on hill, right) and city workers (left, beyond officer) provide surveillance in public spaces 
Differences in maintenance between the Parque de la 93 and Parque El Tintal 
Article
In this article I examine the rise of public space as a planning ideal in Bogota, Colombia, where public space was viewed as a totalizing solution uniquely suited to Bogota’s complex set of problems. Bogota’s public space represents a crucible of hopes and desires for transforming the city and citizenship. I call this process pedagogical urbanism, a mode of planning focused on education and reform. Pedagogical urbanism merges social and spatial planning traditions to produce new social and cultural norms leading, in Bogota’s case, to the (re)formation of civil society through an expansion of the right to the city while creating the conditions for the reproduction of citizens. Citizen monitoring and behavior modification in public space, however, constrain this expansion. This article explores the paradox of expanding the right to the city while creating programs to scrutinize and direct citizens’ actions in public space.
 
Relational logic in urban politics. Note: The two different types of circles (solid and dotted) mean two different subfields. The different letters attached to actors represent different actors or stakeholders. Actors A and B share the same subfield habitus and capitals, while Actors C and D share the same ones. Actors A, B, C, and D share the same urban politics field habitus and capitals.
Three dimensions of urban politics and the field of urban politics as the space of positions.
A line diagram of position-takings in a hypothetical field of urban politics.
Formal concept analysis: a context of urban politics.
Article
This study purposes to build a generic theoretical framework of urban politics, drawing on Bourdieu’s relational sociology and theory of practice. Through a Bourdieusian relational mode of analysis, the study has conceptualized subfields of urban politics and the possible dimensions of politics among stakeholders in different subfields. In addition, the two conceptual spaces of positions and position-takings in the field of urban politics were hypothetically constructed with a methodological suggestion of Galois lattice analysis. The concepts of capital and habitus have also been related to develop the theoretical framework.
 
Article
Are ubiquitous “Cancerous Development” metaphors legitimate and appropriate? Initially a terminal diagnosis requiring radical treatment, many cancers are now chronic diseases managed by pharmaceutical intervention. Similarly, the cancer of urban decay engendered extreme surgical remedy, namely, Urban Renewal. Now planners must convert sprawl—metastasizing across green fields, wasting older urban fabric—into sustainable forms healing diseased ecosystems. The productive employment of metaphors directs thinking to focus on that which is highlighted. This exclusionary process inhibits holistic, systems thinking. When we recognize the constraints of this metaphor, we can operationalize a boundary-crossing, future-oriented process. This article begins to unpack the layers embedded in Cancerous Development to recognize inherent limitations and value.
 
Article
This article examines the relevance of leading social science network theories for the analysis of social relations in particular fields and as a guideline for democratic planning practice. The first section explains the risks of using the network metaphor in social science analysis: the confusion of normative and real features of networks may lead to an abstract representation of institutional structures and power relations and naïve expectancies regarding democratic planning opportunities. The second section reviews institutional network theories in social science. The survey focuses on: the ‘raison d’Ítre’ of the network, the typical behaviour of its agents, the types of communication, interaction with the environment and creation of its own institutions. Section 3 examines how these network theories deal or do not deal with power and suggests improving the theorizing of the role of power in networks by providing a more solid reading of power relations in institutional structures and personal relationships in networks. This solidity could be offered by a combination of Regulation Theory and Bourdieu's theory of practice. The final section provides some guidelines on how a better reading of institutional structures and power relations may improve the impact of democratic planning.
 
Article
In the 1990s Chile and its capital, Santiago, experienced a transformative wave of large infrastructural development thanks to a post-authoritarian commitment to growth with equity. Celebrated as progressive neoliberalism, growth with equity signaled Chile’s political commitment to market-led development but with targeted forms of state-led resource distribution and interventions in the public realm. This meant the adoption of public—private partnerships (franchises) as the preferred instrument for developing public works, namely highways. Despite political fallout over the projects, especially in cities, franchise planning has been successful — it has produced a country and capital city with a world-class infrastructure. The program’s success, however, is not entirely rooted in its market approach to public works delivery. Franchise planning has worked thanks to a tightly planned business model and a political will to improvise plans to address the social dimensions of large projects. Franchised highways and the protests they have triggered are analyzed as an instance of deliberate improvisation. Deliberate improvisation is the conscious decision to plan without a plan, a political choice that signals the power of the state to define what should be planned, how and when. Deliberate improvisation highlights three key aspects of contemporary Chilean development: the state’s belief in its own power to manage people and place; the privileged position of markets in urban development and the political vulnerability of communities directly affected by large projects. Theoretically, deliberate improvisation bridges the analytical and procedural traditions in planning theory.
 
Article
Five years ago Yiftachel (2006) called on planning theorists to focus attention on cities of the global ‘South-East’ where issues differ significantly from northern contexts – which currently inform much planning theory work. This article asks if any such new directions have emerged in this period. It first reviews recent writings on socio-political and material conditions in these cities and suggests a set of assumptions to inform thinking about planning in these regions. It then identifies and assesses new strands of planning thought (some with older roots), and considers the project of taking forward planning theory-building in the global South-East.
 
Article
Laws governing street vending in New York City are confusing, convoluted, at times contradictory and difficult to enforce with any sort of consistency. In this context of uncertainty and illegibility, the practice of street vending in New York and particularly in central areas of Manhattan, is managed in decentralized, privatized and informal ways. The result is a variegated landscape of street vending that is less a function of the rights that the city grants to vendors or the restrictions the city puts on them and more a reflection of the power, influence, resources and resolve of property owners and business improvement districts to exert control over vending and manage public space using techniques of surveillance, intimidation and physical interventions in the streetscape. This article describes how this landscape is produced and lived, while demonstrating the ways in which uncertainty, legal ambiguity and informal practice are intrinsic to the current regime of spatial management in New York.
 
Article
In 1973, Horst W Rittel and Malvin A Webber introduced the term ‘wicked problem’ in planning theory. They describe spatial planning as dealing with inherent uncertainty, complexity and inevitable normativity. This contribution picks up the concept of wicked problems, reflects on it from a planning-theoretical perspective, and proposes the use of Cultural Theory’s concept of clumsy solutions as a response to wicked planning problems. In discussing public participation processes in spatial planning, it is then shown what clumsy solutions mean for spatial planning. The four rationalities of Cultural Theory are then used to explain why public participation in planning can become wicked, and how these rationalities provide a response that copes with this wickedness.
 
Article
Mandelbaum argued against the possibility of a complete general theory of planning set out along the lines of a generalist, a priori, covering-law model. In this article we draw on Miller and Hurley to elaborate a coherentist approach to planning theories that achieves some of the aspirations Mandelbaum sought for a general theory. We argue that this perspective is more inclusive, vis-à-vis what can count as theory for planning, and widens the circle of intellectual conversations in which productive disagreements on points of theory can be sustained. We show how the coherentist approach is useful in focusing the attention of planning theorists on productive inquiry. Finally, by analogy, we argue that a coherentist attitude toward how plans can and should be made and used in particular situations is more useful than the traditional approach of comprehensive plans.
 
Article
The purpose of this article is to expose the concept of collaborative planning to the reality of planning, thereby assessing its efficacy for informing and explaining what planners `really' do and can do. In this systematic appraisal, we begin by disaggregating collaborative planning into four elements that can enlighten such conceptual frameworks: ontology, epistemology, ideology and methodology. These four lenses help delimit and clarify the object of our examination and provide transparent criteria that guide our examination of collaborative planning's strengths and weaknesses. The second part of this article comprises an empirical investigation of planning processes in Northern Ireland, ranging from region-wide to local and from statutory to visionary. Planning efforts in this province make suitable test cases because special care has been invested in participatory deliberation processes to compensate for the democratic deficits in its mainstream political system. Such efforts have sought to ensure a maximally inclusive planning process. And indeed, the consultation process leading to the Regional Development Strategy, for example, has earned plaudits from leading exponents of collaborative planning. The final analysis provides a systematic gauge of collaborative planning in light of our empirical evidence, deploying the four conceptual dimensions introduced in the first part. This exposes a range of problems not only with the concept itself but also regarding its affinity with the uncollaborative world within which it has to operate. The former shed light on those aspects where collaborative planning as a conceptual tool for practitioners needs to be renovated, while the latter highlight inconsistencies in a political framework that struggles to accommodate both global competitiveness and local democratic collaboration.
 
Article
The article examines and confirms the hypothesis that political decision makers gather information and do not use it; ask for more information and ignore it; make decisions first and look for relevant information afterwards; and, collect and process a great deal of information that has little or no direct relevance to decisions. The results are based on interviews with members of the Norwegian national assembly’s Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. In three parliamentary periods, members were interviewed about their use of results from analytic planning models evaluating the projects and strategies of three consecutive road and transport plans. It is studied how the attitudes of the politicians towards the analytic results change as the planners supply increasingly advanced means-ends models.
 
Article
Habermas’ critical theory, and particularly his theory of communicative action, has been applied in the theory and practice of communicative planning. The concept of creating a public sphere in planning processes has been used as an ‘ought’ that planners should seek to achieve to create a communicative rationality. Accepting some of the critique of communicative planning from an agonist and Foucauldian perspective, this paper presents a new application of Habermas’ critical theory. Evidence is presented from community activists in two neighbourhoods of their ongoing reflection on the changes to their built environment over 20 years of regeneration. In this context, Habermas’ theoretical work does explain the long-term discourse as the community moved towards a shared consensus on their neighbourhood. This is used to suggest that instead of looking for consensus in the tense conflicting of moments of initial engagement, planners should focus on the longue durée, and the Lifeworld of lived experience, where shared subjectivities over the built environment can develop.
 
Article
This article reviews the use of complexity theory in planning theory using the theory of metaphors for theory transfer and theory construction. The introduction to the article presents the author's positioning of planning theory. The first section thereafter provides a general background of the trajectory of development of complexity theory and discusses the rationale of using the theory of metaphors for evaluating the use of complexity theory in planning. The second section introduces the workings of metaphors in general and theory-constructing metaphors in particular, drawing out an understanding of how to proceed with an evaluative approach towards an analysis of the use of complexity theory in planning. The third section presents two case studies – reviews of two articles – to illustrate how the framework might be employed. It then discusses the implications of the evaluation for the question ‘can complexity theory contribute to planning?’ The concluding section discusses the employment of the ‘theory of metaphors’ for evaluating theory transfer and draws out normative suggestions for engaging in theory transfer using the metaphorical route.
 
Article
An important contribution of post-structural thinking to planning theory has been the elaboration of fluid and inclusive approaches to planning. Yet, this openness only presents one face of post-structural thinking. Drawing on assemblage theory, this article presents a conceptual journey to discuss the creativity as well as fixity of an emerging planning concept, namely, that of Light Rail. As a case, local ambitions for Light Rail investment in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, are situated in global processes of circulation of ideas and practices, and an expanding world of ‘Light Rail’. In the analysis, the concepts of ‘coding’, ‘diagram’, ‘attractor’, ‘distributed agency’ and ‘territorialization’ are used to understand how a planning concept like Light Rail builds local capacities and proliferates globally.
 
Article
The concept of the urban village was first promoted by the Urban Villages Group in the late 1980s as a means to achieve more human scale, mixed-use and well-designed places. The term urban village has since entered the planning discourse, and a number of developments known as urban villages have appeared across the country. This article draws on ongoing research into the phenomenon of the urban village, and focuses on the origins, definitions, and meanings given to the term in the literature, in interviews with key players, in planning documentation and in the professional press. It appears that the urban village concept is variously interpreted and applied depending on the context in which it is used, and on the knowledge, role and interests of the individual reflecting on the term. The article will attempt to unravel the significance of this, while also drawing some conclusions about how concepts frame, and are framed by, prevailing discourses.
 
Article
Indigenous peoples around the world are claiming and, in many cases, achieving recognition of their customary land rights, with significant challenges for planning systems. How should we understand both the nature of this demand and its politics of recognition? This article demonstrates how the insights and principles contained in political and democratic theory, along with a methodological framework inspired by Institutional Ethnography informs the conceptualization of what is happening between Indigenous peoples and planning systems in British settler-states. Using the highly evocative language of the ‘contact zone’ and an illustration from environmental planning in British Columbia, Canada, this article indicates how reading these theories together builds an approach for critically analysing the textual constraints placed on the social spaces where Indigenous peoples and state-based planning systems meet.
 
Article
John Rawls’s ‘political liberalism’ provides a firm moral basis for contemporary planning theory, offering both a procedure for arriving at the ethical principles which should govern a society, and the substantive principles of justice which he argues best embody the moral ideals of liberty and equality for constitutional liberal democracies. It offers an objective justification for public planning which does not require foundationalism, and fits a liberal democratic context. In 2001, Rawls’s Justice as Fairness: A Restatement summarized the revisions to (or clarifications of) his original theory over the previous 30 years. This article reviews aspects of his theory which are relevant to public planning, concluding that Rawls offers a normative rationale for planning, a basis for practical critique, a reason for hope, and a vision of reasonable, free and equal citizens cooperating to achieve justice as fairness.
 
Article
In this essay, I reflect on the way planning concepts, techniques, instruments and the general idea of ‘planning’ itself flow from one place to another, particularly in the context of the transnational flow of planning ideas. In the past, our conception of such flows was underpinned by linear and singular models of development pathways – the ‘modernization’ myth. This rendered them apparently benign and positive contributions to ‘development’. Today, such concepts have been replaced by a recognition of contingency and complexity, which highlights the particular histories and challenges of localities in different parts of the world, and the damaging consequences when external ideas about planning and development are planted upon specific histories and geographies. This refocusing in turn raises questions about any general meaning of ‘planning’ as a universal good technology for complex urbanized societies. The paper reviews these shifts in conception, and then considers firstly how, as planning academics and practitioners, we should build narratives around particular ‘travelling’ planning ideas, to help critical learning in places where such ideas get to ‘land’. Secondly, I suggest how the idea of ‘planning’ itself might be approached, as a general concept contingently evolving through the experiences and debates we engage in as a ‘community of inquirers’ through which we compose and construct our field of interest. In such a formulation, the general idea of planning is lodged in the tradition of experience, innovation, debate and critique which have accumulated around the practices of managing co-existence in complex urbanized societies.
 
Article
There is growing evidence that the problems, challenges and opportunities that our cities, city-regions and regions are facing cannot be tackled adequately by traditional spatial planning. One of the key challenges for planning in this respect is to analyse critically what type of planning is suited as an approach to deal – in an innovative/emancipatory and transformative way – with the problems and challenges developing and developed societies are facing. An expanding literature and an increasing number of practices all over the world seem to suggest that strategic spatial planning may be looked upon as a possible approach. But at the same time critical comments and reactions are raised on the theory and the practices of strategic spatial planning. This paper uses the theory and practices of coproduction to reframe strategic spatial planning. It first looks for a deeper understanding of the meaning(s) of coproduction as it emerged in different contexts and different intellectual traditions and then introduces coproduction as an immanent characteristic of a more radical type of strategic planning. Coproduction combines the provision of public goods/services needed with the building of a strong, resilient and mutually supportive community that could assure its members their needs would be met. This implies changing the perceptions and the approach of many professionals (public and private) about how plans, policies and public services are conceived and delivered, with the objective of enabling the (structural) change needed in an open and equitable way. The paper relies on a selective review of critical planning literature and the author’s experience in practice.
 
Article
During the recent symposium ‘Is Planning Past Politics?’, the notion of postpolitics and the question what the proper political could be in relation to planning became the main topic. The issue concerning the practices of politics in planning is pertinent, particularly when democratic politics is not necessarily seen to derive its legitimacy only through institutional and procedural arrangements. However, this article identifies a danger in the binary of postpolitics/proper political that it might develop into a kind of ‘postpolitical correctness’.
 
Article
This article uses cosmopolitanism as a theoretical lens to explore both the urbanism and the ethics of planning in Kabul. The Cosmopolis arguments of Sandercock is synthesized with the political argument of Mouffe to articulate a concept of agonistic cosmopolitanism in contrast to a concept of globalizing cosmopolitanism. The practices that shape urban life in Kabul resemble what Simone describes as worlding processes in cities of sub-Saharan Africa. Under such adverse conditions, Kabulis demonstrate vital aspects of agonistic pluralism. Conversely, a transnational community in Kabul embodies a less critical, presumptively global cosmopolitanism through the production of a Global Village that encourages socially disruptive land speculation. The value of a more critical, agonistic understanding is then demonstrated through the analysis of an unexpected discrepancy in planning ideals between the national and local planning agencies in Kabul. This analysis suggests a new ethical task for urban planners: to challenge geopolitical empire through a cosmopolitan ethic that embraces the substantive conflicts which come with actual recognition and political inclusion of the Other.
 
Article
Critical pragmatism provides a line of analysis and imagination that might contribute both to academic planning theory and to engaged planning practices as well. To do so, it must build upon, and develop more politically, Donald Schön’s seminal work on reflective practice. It must help students of planning think critically about outcomes as well as processes, about institutional and process designs, about power and performance. It must resonate experientially with perceptions of change-oriented practitioners facing complex multi-party “problems” characterized by distrust, anger, strategic behavior, poor information, and inequalities of power. Not least of all, a critical pragmatism must—and can—help students of planning reconstruct possibilities where others might initially perceive or presume impossibilities.
 
Article
Current planning policies place significant emphasis on the importance of public participation. Through a case study of a planning application for a wind power development in Scotland, this article examines the realities of such policy commitments. It seeks to evaluate to what extent the planning process represents an exercise in participation — entailing empowerment of participants — or rather in social control — through which public participation is managed in order to secure particular outcomes. The article refers to Lukes’s (1974 [2004]) three-dimensional view of power to demonstrate the various forms of power present within the planning system. Subtle forms of power are shown to act to restrict the extent to which public participants meaningfully influence decisions. This is considered to be particularly true where public participation leads to the expression of public opposition towards developments which are explicitly supported by government policies (as is the case with renewable energy). However, while power remains predominantly in the hands of decision-makers, and within the structures of the planning system, public participants are not powerless. Yet, greater power exists within and beyond the planning system influencing participants’ perceptions of what constitutes legitimate participation. The active roles of participants in interpreting what is expected or required of them, and presenting themselves in ways perceived to lead to optimal benefits must be acknowledged. Engaging with the opinions and knowledge of members of the public is more problematic than simply setting up encounters or opportunities. Rather it requires a more fundamental change in the ways by which expert and lay knowledges are perceived within society.
 
Article
As is well known, many social sciences have recently attempted a sort of ‘institutional turn’ by recognizing the centrality of the institutional framework, when dealing with social and economic phenomena. Interest in such an approach has also begun to emerge in planning theory. But the passage from understanding the decisive role of institutional frameworks to suggesting how to design and modify those frameworks, is sometimes, in planning literature, overly simplistic and still somewhat ‘engineeristic’. I believe that this institutional turn could be of considerable importance for planning theory and practice, although it is perhaps better not to adopt a strictly ‘instrumentalist’ view of institutions and to recognize the marked specificity of them that calls for a more prudent and ‘evolutionary’ approach.
 
Article
With its origins in systems ecology and emerging interest in the inter-disciplinary examination of the governance of linked social-ecological systems, social-ecological resilience offers a field of scholarship of particular relevance for planning at a time when global ecological challenges require urgent attention. This article explores what new conceptual ground social-ecological resilience offers planning theory. I argue that at a time when planning theorists are calling for more attention to matters of substance alongside matters of process, social-ecological resilience provides a timely contribution, particularly given the minimal attention in planning theory scholarship to environmental and ecological considerations as a driving concern.
 
Top-cited authors
Jean Hillier
  • RMIT University
Stefano Moroni
  • Politecnico di Milano
Faranak Miraftab
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Oren Yiftachel
  • Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Vanessa Watson
  • University of Cape Town